How do I answer an objection like this? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
Since I have a YouTube channel dedicated to gaming and theology, a niche I saw very few people addressing, it’s not to be a surprise when someone shoots me a question. A husband and wife I am good friends with wanted to ask me one. It goes as follows and I am quoting:
So I was wondering something based on your work with video games. I have an acquaintance from a Christian group who has a Twitch account streaming video games. (This person prides himself on being a conservative Christian and has been on his wife for being too theologically liberal). He invited some of us to tune in and I checked it out. He was playing a game I’d never heard of called “Resident Evil”. Within 30 seconds, I heard over the top vulgar language and saw a character being tortured to death. Is this the kind of game that’s common among the Christian gaming community?
Now at the start, I have never played Resident Evil, though I am trying to get into Bioshock because of the rich philosophical themes, not because I just enjoy first-person shooters. However, I did really enjoy Goldeneye back in the day. Everyone did.
That doesn’t mean I don’t know about Resident Evil and have never seen gameplay about it. However, when I hear at the start that there was torture and vulgar language, I don’t stop immediately. It’s easy to make a hard and fast rule, but two things give me pause.
As I told them, when I was in high school, I remember being in English and the teacher showed us a movie. We had to watch it in more than one class as it was a long movie, but I do remember we saw full nudity in women. You could see a woman in a bed completely topless. I remember there was a lot of violence. People were being killed constantly. There were then scenes with several women totally nude. Keep in mind I didn’t grow up in a liberal area. I grew up in the Bible belt.
However, I bet most children in the class that if they went home and said they had watched this movie, their parents would not be concerned. They would ask what they thought. It would lead to a good discussion. I’ll go further. If I ever get blessed with children, I will want them to watch this movie one time at least when they are old enough.
The movie was Schindler’s List.
If you have a hard and fast rule against anything like what was described in the question above, you will be prone to miss this movie, and yet it is a classic. It points to a great period of evil in our history and something we need to talk about. If you look at the women who are nude and just think about sex, you have a serious problem.
Lately also, I have seen people saying that if we object to Drag Queens and certain books in our schools, then we should object to the statue of David. After all, he is fully nude. The difference here is that the intent of David is not to be sexual, but to show the glory of the human body. It is not to sexualize David. The intent of porn and many of these books is to sexualize.
Another reason this gives me pause is because I think of what skeptics say, especially about the book of Judges. Consider Judges 19 where you have a gang rape take place and then the body of the victim is cut into pieces and sent to the tribes of Israel. Skeptics ask how something this awful can be included in the Bible.
Yet this whole section is also about how wicked Israel was at the time and the consequences of living in an ungodly society when there was no godly king. It is not to celebrate the time. It is to say “Don’t be like this time!”
Thus, when it comes to these games, I make no hard and fast rule for the most part. If it leads you to sin, don’t do it. If it doesn’t, then the only thing to really consider is how other people might see it. That should be kept in mind.
Some people might play Resident Evil (RE) because they enjoy the gameplay and they enjoy the puzzle solving and the skill involved in playing a shooter game. That doesn’t mean that these people will become mass shooters.
Some people will point to school shooters, but many of these actually did not play video games. An example of this is the shooting at Virginia Tech where the student was known for not playing games. It could be this made him an outsider to the culture of people who were gamers and thus could actually be a warning sign.
If first-person shooter games were the cause of these kinds of violent outbreaks, then we would expect that there would be far more outbreaks than there are. There aren’t. The overwhelming majority of people who play these games will never kill anyone with a gun in real life.
I read a book on audio recently that talked about a lady named Daphne Maurer who was doing research on vision and at the university was looking for some guinea pigs for the tests. The only people there were the video gamers in the computer lab because, well, nerds hang out at the university. These people were playing first-person shooters and when given the vision tests, they aced them incredibly.
What Maurer found over time was that people who played these games consistently tend to have better vision. After all, you have to survey a whole area and watch for any movement and know it well and you have to be able to get a shot in quickly if a target shows up and quickly identify if they are a friend or a foe. These people learned how to do that.
Ultimately, and this said in light of the very recent school shooting in Nashville, the problem is actually not the guns. The old saying is true. Guns don’t kill people. People do. They will use any weapon whatsoever. At the start of Bioshock, your main weapon is a wrench. The largest mass killings done in America were done with planes and with trucks with fertilizer.
The problem is us. We are sinful people. The sexual revolution has especially raised the breakdown of the family where those good moral beliefs were supposed to be taught. Many of us who are gamers like myself want to avoid real-life violence. I will break to avoid hitting a squirrel while driving. If anything, a lot of us want to overcome evil. Edward Snowden even said his exposing of government surveillance came from playing video games.
There are plenty of good books on this. I recommend Moral Kombat: Why The War On Violent Video Games is Wrong and Grand Theft Childhood. I ultimately contend that the best solution is to restore the value of human life and to restore the family and undo the sexual revolution.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)